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Medical social worker has a heart for helping others

Medical social worker Pamelyn Tan was inspired by the resilience shown by patients and family members she encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic

By Kenneth SZ Goh

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed great strain on Singaporeans, especially those who already face financial and personal difficulties. Singapore General Hospital (SGH) medical social worker Pamelyn Tan, 27, saw this up close with the patients she encountered during the pandemic.

Ms Tan’s clinical specialities are internal medicine, and obstetrics and gynaecology, but, at the peak of the crisis, she was roped in to support quarantined patients who had been admitted to SGH and were awaiting their swab tests. The medical social work team’s duties included facilitating financial assistance, counselling, case management and care planning.

Apart from the increased patient load, Ms Tan had to “manage new profiles of patients, and there was added complexity due to the pandemic’s effects on the psycho-social well-being of patients and their families”. 

“For example, some patients had difficulty accessing care services. They could not hire foreign domestic workers due to travel restrictions, and vacancies for other care services were limited due to the safe distancing measures. We had to work with community partners to explore alternative care arrangements,” she adds.

During those difficult moments, Ms Tan counted on her colleagues’ and husband’s support. “I felt inspired by the resilience displayed by patients, family members and the community as they formed networks to support one another.”

Working on the front lines also taught her that “life is fleeting”. “What is of long-lasting worth is how we grow and impact others in the way we live, including in our work as healthcare professionals.”

From teaching to social work

Making a difference in other’s lives was always close to Ms Tan’s heart. After her A levels, she did a parttime teaching stint, where she taught children from families with personal and financial difficulties.

She says: “Besides exploring the person’s feelings, social history and values, social work is also about looking at the person-in-environment and considering how to work best with systems — family, school, the workplace — to help the person.”

The experience led her to major in social work at the National University of Singapore, where  she graduated from in 2016. She was also a recipient of the MOH Holdings’ Healthcare Merit Award.

Ms Tan plans to pursue a graduate diploma in counselling to develop her knowledge of domestic violence issues, and hone her grief counselling skills. “Seeing the positive change in people’s lives makes it fulfilling and worthwhile,” she says.

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